A Tribute To Runner Mamas From A Runner Daughter

My mom and me, after we both ran our half-marathon PR at the 2014 Carlsbad Half Marathon.
My mom and me, after we both ran our half-marathon PR at the 2014 Carlsbad Half Marathon.

To all the runner mamas—especially my own:

First, thank you for being there at all hours of every day of every month of every year of our hectic, crazy, developing lives. As a daughter to one of you, I know I tend to lean too far a lot of the time, nearly knocking you over in the process. I walk away without a scrap thanks to your buffer, but you are left covered in the dust of my past and bruises of worry that you perhaps did not say the right thing. Remember: You always say the right thing, especially when the right thing is sending me off on a run with my headphones and furrowed brow.

Much of the time, a solo run is a fabulous cure to all that ails me. It brings me solitude and peace that isn’t found in other corners of my “complicated” life. (I still have that tear-out from that rusty old day calendar on the bathroom mirror that reminds me to not attack life with the certainty of a 16-year-old. You don’t know crap until you experience it.) But beginning with one single happenstance moment, when we choose to lace up next to you and head out the door, a different type of relationship, friendship and love develops—one that is special only to mothers who share a run with their daughters. Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of all the sons and the other special ties that undoubtedly exist between kids and their parents. I can only speak to the unbeatable bond that I share with my own badass runner mama—the same woman who crafted a piece of wall art out of my first-ever half marathon medal, finisher photo and Team Challenge jersey. This was before she was crushing her own races and racking up more triathlons than I care to ever race myself. Yes, before she was out pinning on her own bibs, she was supporting her own family of running daughters.

Runners and endurance athletes in general are head cases. We over analyze, we criticize, we follow strange sleep patterns, we arrogantly pretend to be subtle about our accomplishments, we size up other runners on the road. Well, at least I do—and I hope others size me up too. I will never be the fastest, but you, the runner mamas, make us feel like we are undefeated. It’s always a blessing to have your mom standing on the sidelines, screaming perhaps not the loudest, but with a recognizable voice that carries over the most obnoxious bystander. But when you have the privilege to run, race and celebrate with the woman who you’ve shared so much of your life with—literally from start to present day, you really can’t get rid of her—that’s a truly special moment. There’s suddenly an element of security that wasn’t there before. When you’re stumbling over your own steps, trying to nail that perfect split or shiny new PR, knowing your mom is running up ahead, next to or behind you elicits some serene, deeper breaths and more practical thinking to get you to that finish. What would mom do? If I fail, at least she will be crossing that same finish line. If I don’t fail, she will be crossing that same finish line to celebrate.

Of course, there’s always that unspoken agreement between runners that running is a ruggedly challenging sport in its purest form, always pushing your legs harder and challenging your brain to a greater mental game. Sharing that struggle with the person who basically knows your steps before you take them makes it better. It makes it easier. It brings you closer. No longer a spectator on the sidelines of your life, runner mamas are totally in the mix, pinning the bib, shaking the nerves, kicking the curb after a hard one, thrusting a fist in the air after a successful one, and totally texting you after their own workout to tell you three things: a) Yes, they ran too b) Yes, they survived said run and c) Yes, they finally signed up for the race where they can place in their new “old lady” age group. And forgot about it when you both PR in the same race—that’s just freaking awesome.

And ladies—how totally cool is it when friends give you ups for being a “runner duo with your daughter”? In a way, you live a celebrity life in many circles. The bond between any mother and her daughter is worth a special nod, but I am daring enough to say that the bond between a running mom and her runner daughter might just beat the rest. As we creep up to Mother’s Day on Sunday, I just wanted to say this to all of you: We love crossing all of life’s finish lines with you. To my special mom, my best friend: Thanks for bringing the best banana bread to every track meet, for being my greatest cheerleader as I picked up the pace and miles after colitis beat me for a year, for catching me after every trip through marathon training and for crossing the finish line with me at our first triathlon. I know you thought I was holding your hand, but really, you were holding mine—because I wouldn’t be able to do life’s race without your support.

With love and the biggest tailwind,